Seven hundred years ago, executioners led a Welsh rebel named William Cragh to a wintry hill to be hanged. They placed a noose around his neck, dropped him from the gallows, and later pronounced him dead. But was he dead? While no less than nine eyewitnesses attested to his demise, Cragh later proved to be very much alive, his resurrection attributed to the saintly entreaties of the defunct Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe.
The Hanged Man tells the story of this putative miracle — why it happened, what it meant, and how we know about it. The nine eyewitness accounts live on in the transcripts of de Cantilupe’s canonization hearings, and these previously unexamined documents contribute not only to an enthralling mystery, but to an unprecedented glimpse into the day-to-day workings of medieval society.
While unraveling the haunting tale of the hanged man, Robert Bartlett leads us deeply into the world of lords, rebels, churchmen, papal inquisitors, and other individuals living at the time of conflict and conquest in Wales. In the process, he reconstructs voices that others have failed to find. We hear from the lady of the castle where the hanged man was imprisoned, the laborer who watched the execution, the French bishop charged with investigating the case, and scores of other members of the medieval citizenry. Brimming with the intrigue of a detective novel, The Hanged Man will appeal to both scholars of medieval history and general readers alike.
"A gripping, educative and quite often disquieting excursion into [an] alien land. . . . Robert Bartlett examines with verve, scholarship, and gusto the extraordinary story."—Maurice Keen, London Review of Books
"Rich in drama, mystery, curiosity and coincidence. . . . [Bartlett's]
performance opens for us a panoramic window into the world of the Middle Ages and encapsulates an entire culture within the context of a botched execution and a theological inquiry. It is a virtuoso display of scholarship."—Jan Morris, The Times (London)
"As well as revealing the mechanics of execution, the politics of a Marcher lordship and the dynamics of miracle, the testimony in the Cragh case enables us to explore issues as intimate and elusive as how medieval people remembered distant events and how they described units of space and time. Voices of the distant past can be heard again."—History Today
"A delightful book. . . . Professor Bartlett's 168 pages are . . . more readable than most thrillers. . . . [I]n The Hanged Man men and women long dead (and, in one case, resurrected) walk and talk across 800 years."—Byron Rogers, The Spectator
"An absorbing book that is elegantly, lucidly and entertainingly written."—Sean McGLynn, Medieval History Magazine
"It is . . . a complex look at history from the point of view of a particular, diverse set of subjects . . . that has the power to generate considerable interest in the medieval period."—Patricia Clare Ingham, American Historical Review
"The Hanged Man. . . . is a fascinating and well-told tale, well worth the reading."—James Given, Speculum
"The author shows that memory is flawed—as modern witnesses all too often demonstrate—and is shaped by the fullness of experience. . . . [T]he genius of this work is that . . . it is a model for teasing every bit of evidence from a brief source to reveal the mental world of medieval people."—Joyce E. Salisbury, The Historian
"The Hanged Man is an outstanding introduction to the politics and culture of late thirteenth-and early fourteenth-century Britain. I recommend it unequivocally."—Michael Cichon, Canadian Journal of History
"The Hanged Man is a yarn in the best tradition, all the better for its historical provenance, a satisfying, engrossing, and remarkable read."—Michael G. Cornelius, Bloomsbury Review
"Superb. Robert Bartlett takes an utterly unnoticed text from the canonization dossier and uses it as a window into the politics, society, culture, and devotional world of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. I can think of no other book that gets as much of the Middle Ages into so small a compass."—Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania
"The story of The Hanged Man is so good, so well written and so nicely inflected with wry humor that it makes Medieval history come alive."—William Jordan, Princeton University